healthcare_healthsouthIn November 2001, national healthcare provider HealthSouth Corporation broke ground to build the world’s first all-digital hospital. Located on the corporate headquarters campus in Birmingham, Alabama, the one million-square-foot facility incorporates all the latest digital technology the new millennium has to offer. The hospital portion of the campus includes a 13-story structure and a 10-story, 1,500 car parking garage. The lower five stories of the hospital have a footprint of 123,000 square feet that reduces to a 37,000-square-foot tower above the fifth floor.

The first five floors house typical hospital functions including medical diagnostics, mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) equipment, food preparation, materials logistics, and administrative support. Specialty functions include three magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) units, gamma knife, and 20 operating suites with space potential for 10 more. The gamma knife is on the second floor of the building, which required special framing to support the 24-inch-thick walls and 20-inch-thick ceiling. This gamma knife is one of a few in the country to be supported on a framed floor. Vibration was a prime consideration in the design of the structure given the high-tech operating suites. Cast-in-place reinforced concrete was a natural choice to address the curved plan view, support heavy loads from the special equipment, and reduce vibration concerns.

The patient bed portion of the tower comprises floors six through 12 with a mechanical penthouse occupying the 13th floor. The tower plan dimensions are 360-feet long and 110-feet wide. The three to one rectangular aspect of the building and the short 110-foot width presented a challenge to lateral load design. Nevertheless, concrete frames rather than shear walls were used for lateral load resistance to provide space flexibility.

The typical floor is a concrete beam and slab system composed of 25-inch-deep beams and six-inch-thick slabs. The floors were formed using plywood and steel plate connected wood trusses in lieu of steel or fiberglass pan form systems. Concrete strengths for the typical 30-by-30-inch columns ranged from 8,000 psi in the lower levels to 5,000 psi in the upper levels.

The post-tensioned cast-in-place concrete parking deck was built adjacent to the hospital with four stories below grade and six stories above. Typical bays are framed with girders spanning 60 feet and a 6-inch-thick slab spanning 27 feet between the girders.

The fast track schedule challenged the design team, but the concrete frame facilitated delivery of multiple packages broken down into foundations and floors. Structural packages were issued over two months in advance of architectural packages. The contractor began foundations in May 2002 and topped out the million square foot structure one year later. A steel option could not support this schedule due to mill order, detailing, and fabrication delays. The contractor placed more than 52,000 yards of concrete in the structure and 4,800 cubic yards in site walls. Given a 40-hour work week, concrete was poured at the rate of 25 yards an hour throughout the year of construction. Fast turnaround, timely completion, and early occupancy were only possible with concrete. An additional 23,700 yards of concrete in the parking structure will serve HealthSouth patients and employees for years to come.


HealthSouth Corporation, Inc


CLA, Inc., Birmingham, Alabama
Kirksey Architecture, Houston, Texas

Structural Engineer:

LBYD, Inc., Birmingham, Alabama

General Contractor:

Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC Birmingham, Alabama

Concrete Suppliers
Sherman Ready Mix
USA Ready Mix, Birmingham, Alabama